State spends more than $3m on Moving Victoria ads

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The Age: State spends more than $3m on Moving Victoria ads. September 25, 2014, Richard Willingham, State Political Correspondent for The Age

More than $3 million has been spent on spruiking the East West Link and the proposed train to the airport in television and newspaper advertisements since the start of the year, industry data shows.

The government is refusing to say how many taxpayer dollars have been poured into the Moving Victoria or any other government ad campaign.

The Coalition government says advertising expenditure will be detailed in a report in December, after the state election.

But Nielsen advertising expenditure figures show that between January and August $3.1 million has been spent on the government’s Moving Victoria ad campaign alone.

Nearly two-thirds of that was spent on television ads.

The frequency of advertising has also increased this month, including airing of ads during the Brownlow medal count.

Government tender documents show that at least one of the advertisements campaigns for Moving Victoria cost $400,000 to produce.

The government has come under criticism for the advertisement for being too political. In opposition the Coalition promised to crack down on political advertising masked as government information campaigns.

The Brumby government spent $124 million advertising in the 2009-2010 financial year on a series of ads including some for transport.

The Coalition vowed to immediately set up a five-person panel to assess government ads, headed by a retired judge, but it took nearly two years.

And, rather than a retired judge, a former Howard government bureaucrat was chosen as the inaugural chairman and the membership was reduced to three. The panel has reported twice and is due to report again after the election.

The government has also used mock boarding passes to promote the proposed rail link to the airport. The Public Transport Users Association’s Daniel Bowen said the boarding passes were inserted into some copies of a free commuter newspaper. He attacked the government for spending so much on advertising.

“It’s another gimmick that taxpayers are paying for to help get the government elected,” Mr Bowen said.

“It’s an incredible amount of money for a project that is not fully funded and more than a decade away.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transport and Planning said advertising costs for Moving Victoria would be reported in the department’s 2013-14 annual report, and the Victorian government annual advertising expenditure report in December.

Advertising veteran Paul Gardner who is now principal at DEPA Connections said there was simple test for legitimate government advertising.

“In my opinion an information campaign is information you have requested, you need or information you can act upon. Anything else is propaganda,” Mr Gardner said.

“Every government does it, and tries to get away with it.”

Swinburne University political expert Brian Costar said the advertisements were a misuse of public money, but said all governments did it.

“They look straight out like party campaigns, it looks pretty political,” Professor Costar said.

Labor’s scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula said hard-working Victorians should not be paying for the Premier’s “increasing desperation.”

“The volume of blatantly political, taxpayer-funded advertising that we are being bombarded with is just obscene,” Mr Pakula said.

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